One major thread of my research is understanding phonology and its interfaces, in particular morphologically and syntactically conditioned prosodic patterns and the choreography of post-syntactic PF operations which take place at this interface. Another thread involves historical and areal phonology of the Niger-Congo phylum of Africa, including conducting fieldwork in Nigeria on the Edoid, Ijoid, and Kainji families. Click on the [+/-] below to see some current projects I am working on.
[+/-] Dominance effects in grammatical tone assignment
My dissertation is on ‘prosodic dominance effects’ focusing on grammatical tone, defined as systematic prosodic changes on a stem triggered by a modifying affix or other modifier (e.g. an independent demonstrative). An example is below from Hausa (Chadic: Nigeria; Inkelas 1998) in which a root with lexical /LHLH/ tone melody changes to all high when a plural suffix is added.
/tààtsúúnìyáá/ + /H –óóCíí/ bird PLURAL [táátsúníyóóyíí] ‘birds’
My dissertation looks at these dominance effects from three perspectives. First, I present a canonical typology of prosodic dominance effects illustrating the range of variation they exhibit along a number of axes. Some of these axes include what conditions the dominance pattern, prosodic immutability of certain targets, degrees of neutralization of the target, allomorphic tone patterns, blocking due to markedness, degree of locality, among others.
Second, such dominance effects often show competition between the prosodic properties of two or more morphosyntactic elements (Hyman 2016). I argue that the resolution of competing prosodies falls out from the architecture of the morphosyntax/phonology interface, incorporating core Distributed Morphology processes into Optimality Theory stratal evaluation.
Third, dominance effects contradict the well-known generalization that phonological properties of a root typically win out over properties of an affix when the two are in competition, formalized as McCarthy & Prince’s (1995) meta-constraint RootFaith >> AffixFaith. In accounting for this, I examine the functional load of tone in various languages, under the hypothesis that languages whose lexical tone has a low functional load will show more prosodic dominance, and vice versa.
Email me for a rough copy of my PhD prospectus on this topic.
[+/-] Morphological accent assigned outside of a metrical window in Ese'eja
This project investigates the interaction between morphologically-assigned accent with metrical windows. Metrical windows refer to a designated number of syllables at a domain-edge within which primary metrical prominence is restricted (Kager 2012). In languages demonstrating lexical/morphological accent, Kager shows that if this accent appears outside of a metrical window, primary prominence is realized on a default position within the window, which I term Default Repair. In contrast is a novel type of metrical window repair termed Rhythmic Repair. Under this type, when accent is assigned outside the window, the position of primary prominence falls on a position which is rhythmically dependent on the window-external accent, e.g. uniformly two syllables away.
This repair is demonstrated in Ese’eja [Takanan: Bolivia], in which accent position varies according to syllable count, root transitivity, the type of affix added, and affix-specific cophonologies enforcing iterative iambs or trochees. These factors interact with a constraint designating the leftmost foot in the word as receiving primary accent. This language demonstrates a number of theoretically important phenomena, including a rare mixed iambic/trochaic system violating (a ‘dual rhythm’ language), and evidence for iterative footing established prior to primary prominence delegation, supporting a bottom-up prosodic algorithm in contrast to van der Hulst’s (1996) Primary Accent First model.
Parts of this research will appear in Heinz, van der Hulst, & Goedemans (eds.) The Study of word stress and accent: Theories, methods and data (Cambridge University Press) [pre-publication draft], co-authored with Marine Vuillermet (Radboud Universiteit) the primary fieldworker on this language. I also presented this research at the 2016 Annual Meeting on Phonology (AMP) [poster] and at the LSA 2017 Annual Meeting [handout].
[+/-] DM operations as OT constraints: Clitics in Degema
One currently unresolved issue in interface studies involves how to model the choreography of post-syntactic operations which are proposed to take place at spell-out. In exploring this issue, I have proposed viewing operations posited in Distributed Morphology (DM) as violable constraints subject to an Optimality Theory (OT) evaluation in order to account for the distribution of clitics in serial verb constructions (SVCs) in Degema [Edoid, Niger-Congo: Nigeria].
In Degema, there are 2 types of SVC patters. In one, inflectional clitics attach to both verbs in the SVC which I term the double-marking pattern. In another, proclitics attach to the first verb and enclitics attach to the second verb "book-ending" the entire complex, which I term the single-marking pattern. The first pattern is found when there is an intervening prosodically heavy object, whereas the second is found when there is an intervening prosodically light pronoun or no object, shown below.
Double-marking pattern - Intervening object osóm nụ́sī otúl wọ́ōn o=sóm=n ụ́sī o=túl wọ́=ōn AGR=be.good=ASP beauty AGR=reach you=ASP "He is as handsome as you" (Kari 2004:157)
Single-marking pattern - Prosodically light object Breno o=ḍúw mé tạ́=ān Breno o=ḍúw mé tạ́=ān Breno AGR=follow me go=ASP "Breno went with me" (Kari 2004:115)
Single-marking pattern - No object Ohoso osóm túl nọ́yi Ohoso o=sóm túl=n ọ́yi Ohoso AGR=be.good reach=ASP him "Ohoso is as handsome as him" (Kari 2004:157)
I propose that both patterns are responses to a single morphological well-formedness condition (MWC) which states that verbs must appear in a morphological word (MWd) marked with inflectional morphology. In order to satisfy this MWC, verbs undergo local dislocation (Embick & Noyer 2007) and form a single a morphological constituent (i.e. a morphological “compound”). Local dislocation takes place if the verbs are sufficiently local defined linearly/prosodically.
In contrast, when the verbs are not sufficiently local, to satisfy the MWC the clitic features of the first verb are copied onto subsequent verbs through dissociated node insertion of AGR and ASP nodes. I understand DM operations as being violable OT constraints which are evaluated in parallel rather than serially, and argue that dissociated AGR node insertion and local dislocation are faithfulness constraints which interact with the proposed MWC, a morphological markedness constraint. A traditional DM rule-based account results in an ordering paradox and is therefore inadequate. Part of this research will appear in the ACAL46 proceedings [pre-publication paper].
In this project, I have had the opportunity to work with native speaker/linguist Prof. Ethelbert E. Kari. Our collaboration on Degema is part of a larger effort to document this language, including lexical and grammatical tone patterns which we are currently investigating.
[+/-] Areal typology of West African phonological systems
Another thread of my research program involves phonological typology, specifically the way typological patterns are distributed across macro-areas in Africa. This research is part of the Berkeley ALFA project (Areal Linguistic Features of Africa) under the guidance of Prof. Larry Hyman, which seeks to exhaustively demarcate the distribution of linguistic patterns in non-Bantu Sub-Saharan Africa. Several Africanists have proposed a linguistic area called the Macro-Sudan Belt south of the Sahara stretching from Senegal to South Sudan (Clements & Rialland 2008, Güldemann 2010). Much of the evidence defining this area is phonological, including nasal vowels and vowel harmonies.
I am currently collaborating with Florian Lionnet (Princeton) and Matthew Faytak (Berkeley) in demarcating the areal distribution of the famous advanced tongue root (ATR) harmony contrast found in many African languages. From a database of vowel system properties of approximately 615 language varieties, we show that there are unconnected West African and East African ATR zones, between which lies a zone which systematically lacks ATR. Within this medial zone, the presence of interior vowels [ɨ ɯ ɜ ə ʌ …] is disproportionately common, with ATR and interiority showing a statistically significant inverse relationship. We take our survey to show that elaboration of ATR distinctions along the acoustic dimension of F1 limits elaboration of interiority distinctions along F2, and vice-versa. We presented this research at the 2016 Annual Conference on African Linguistics and at the LSA 2017 Annual Meeting [slides].
Further, for one of my qualifying papers I sought to refine our understanding of this macro-area with respect to nasality, presenting a typology of nasal vowel patterns in over 350 languages. This revealed that within this macro-area there are five large oral vowel zones which systematically lack nasal vowels. I further demonstrated the diachronic spread and loss of contrastive nasalization with comparative data, suggesting largescale areal convergence in certain select areas. I presented this research in at the Congress of African Linguistics in Kyoto, Japan [slides].
[+/-] Grammatical description of Esan
This project involves a description of Esan, an Edoid language of Nigeria, in collaboration with native speaker Irehobhude Iyioha and Prof. Keren Rice at the University of Toronto. Esan is spoken by approximately 500,000 people, though is under significant threat from Nigerian English varieties and no comprehensive grammar exists to date. This project seeks to describe all major components of the grammar including segmental phonology, lexical and grammatical tone, noun and verb systems, and clause structure, as well as provide a small lexicon and set of texts. This project involves working with speakers in Nigeria as well in North America. Contact me for updates on this grammar project.